Peak(s):  Peters Pk  -  13,122 feet
PT 13,222 A  -  13,222 feet
"P 3"  -  13,300 feet
"P 1"  -  13,250 feet
"P 2"  -  13,302 feet
Date Posted:  12/15/2020
Date Climbed:   07/14/2020
Author:  supranihilest
Additional Members:   whileyh, Garrett
 Eight Days in the Weminuche, Days 4-5: Split "P"s with a Side of Soupy Weather  

Table of Contents

Monday, July 13, 2020: Day 4 - Peters Peak, Point 13,222 A, "P 3", and Stormy Weather
-- Day 4 Statistics
Tuesday, July 14, 2020: Day 5 - "P 1", "P 2", and Sunlight Creek Approach
-- Day 5 Statistics


Monday, July 13, 2020: Day 4 - Peters Peak, Point 13,222 A, "P 3", and Stormy Weather

The Peters Traverse from Rock Lake - Peters Peak, Point 13,222 A, "P 3", "P 2", and unranked "P 1" - is an all time classic scramble. From my research into the route before coming on this trip I knew it contained oodles of difficult and exposed scrambling. Once we (Garrett, Whiley, and I) had actually gotten up into Rock Creek drainage and seen the spectacular peaks we'd be climbing, and got to put our hands on some of the rock of the area, we knew it was going to be a gem.

20504_01
North ridge of "P 1" on the right; the summit is not visible. "P 3" is in the middle, and on the left is a series of massive, stacked slabs running to the ridge between Point 13,222 A and "P 3".
20504_02
The stacked slabs of the previous photo, found between Point 13,222 A and "P 3" with Buffalo Peak on the left. The slabs of the Peters group are reminiscent of Vestal Basin.

These peaks don't get much attention, probably due to a combination of their obscurity, difficulty, remoteness, and near requirement to backpack, but their obscurity should be a thing of the past in spite of the other drawbacks. I consider the Peters Traverse, which we had to split in two due to storms, to be one of the finest scrambles I've ever done. If these peaks were in the Front Range there'd be dozens of climbers on them every weekend, but considering their spot in a sea of high peaks in the Weminuche Wilderness, we had them all to ourselves. If you like remote, scene, and classic scrambles then this one's for you.

We got started on the traverse at about 6:30am from our little camp near Rock Lake. We hadn't seen anyone in days, which was a special treat. This time instead of heading over the pass towards the Moon Lakes we went to Rock Lake and then directly west towards the Peters Peak/Buffalo Peak saddle. We came across another small lake below Peters which we skirted on its east side on talus, then up grass and talus to the saddle.

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Peters Peak and Point 13,222 A in the early morning.
20504_04
Buffalo Peak across the small, unnamed lake. Photo: Whiley H.

From the saddle there was about 700 feet of Class 2+/Easy Class 3 on steep grass, dirt, talus, and small rock outcroppings to the summit of Peters. The quality of pretty much all of it was poor, but the scrambling not too difficult. It might be unpleasant to go down, however.

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North slopes of Peters Peak. Exposure and difficulty increased the higher we went.
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Looking down Peters with Buffalo in the background. Photo: Garrett M.
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The summit of Peters eases off to a walk.
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Most of the Peters Traverse from the summit of Peters. "P 2" is hidden from just about everywhere but 13,222 A, "P 3", and "P 1" are visible in this photo. Photo: Garrett M.

All told it only took about an hour from camp to the summit of Peters. Our reward for the quick effort were some of the finest views of Rio Grande Pyramid and "Window Peak" I had ever seen.

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Rio Grande Pyramid and the Window. The gradual ridge to the right is Point 13,017. Photo: Garrett M.

Point 13,222 A from the summit of Peters looked intimidating. It's basically a massive block of rock pointing straight to the skies. The route wasn't obvious but we knew it went at Class 3.

20504_11
Point 13,222 A looking pretty bananas.

Getting down to the saddle was an easy talus hop, and then there was a second ascending talus hop to get below the scramble. Numerous options presented themselves at this point, from Class 3 to Class 4 depending on line. Garrett chose a slightly harder line while Whiley and I went up an obvious inset gully at Class 3. In the photo above, our gully is the slightly lighter colored rock a little ways below the summit on the left. The scrambling here was slightly discontinuous but fun, and the rock quality was excellent.

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Our gully. Garrett can be seen on the left going up his route.
20504_13
Looking down our gully with Whiley and I visible. The view is a bit foreshortened, the total vertical was probably 100-200 feet.

Once we were up our respective scrambles the upper mountain returned to a Class 2 hike. We'd be on talus almost all the way to "P 3", but 13,222 A's summit was only a few minutes away and came and went quickly.

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Mount Oso's dramatic east face. Photo: Garrett M.

To get to "P 3" we'd have to cross a sea of red quartzite talus. There appeared to be a couple of scrambly spots on the ridge as it swung back and forth en route to "P 3".

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Start of the traverse to "P 3", which is in the center with a band of light low across it.
20504_16
Besides the last few hundred feet horizontal the entire distance from 13,222 A to "P 3" was quartzite talus.

The talus was nice and stable, making the crossing easy. We noticed that "P 3" had at least three summits, perhaps more, but the true summit was the closest to the main ridge. The others were simply the tops of the giant slabs seen from Rock Creek.

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Humongous slabs each with their own summit.

The summit was just off of the main ridge and required some Class 3 scrambling along a serrated knife edge with huge air to the east, followed by a short down climb into a notch and a Class 3 (some may consider it Class 4) climb out the other side.

20504_18
Garrett and Whiley scrambling along the knife edge section of ridge. The rock on the "P"s is absolutely gorgeous.
20504_19
Me coming up the initial summit ridge. Photo: Garrett M.
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Looking down into the notch, which goes at Class 3/Class 4. The down climb in sunlight is also Class 3. Photo: Garrett M.
20504_21
"P 3"'s rainbow summit.

From "P 3"'s summit we could see the full stretch of ridge that encompassed "P 2" and "P 1", a huge, jagged streak of red slabs so clustered together it was difficult to even tell what summit was what.

20504_22
"P 2" through "P 1" with more Weminuche goodness behind.

We only lingered on the summit for a few minutes. Clouds had been building all morning and it was raining in the direction of "P 1". It wouldn't be long before it reached us, so we scrambled back along the ridge, taking a long sling someone left wrapped around a horn at the top of the Class 3/Class 4 section. The sling was new but felt more like trash than something someone would be using in the near future. By the time we'd made it back to the talus hike it was sprinkling and thundering. We quickly made our way to the saddle with "P 2", had a short discussion about continuing, and unanimously agreed to bail there. The remaining climb would be especially dangerous wet, not to mention the possibility of lightning strikes. We bailed down a steep talus gully into the basin to the north and the skies unleashed, soaking us and making the smooth rocks in the basin slick as could be.

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A quartzite glacier seems like an odd thing.

In the basin we got incredible views of the surrounding slabs, which ran from the basin all the way to the heights. Vestal Basin might get all of the attention but this area is no less spectacular.

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Slabs on "P 3"
20504_25
Slabs on "P 2".
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Whiley and I dwarfed by the rugged landscape. Photo: Garrett M.
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Crazy bonus rock.

The storm was violent but didn't last long, in typical Weminuche fashion. By the time we'd crossed the talus field it had stopped raining so we decided to head up "P 1"'s north ridge and see if we couldn't at least get "P 1". We went west up a grassy slope that gave way to cruddy dinner plated trash that was quite out of character for the area, and topped out on the ridge just in time for the thunder to reappear in close proximity. We retreated back down the slope in another brief rain shower, this time with no plans to try again that day. We instead went northeast across a beautiful, lush wetland and into the forest, weaving our way down through the trees and cliffs before reaching the south side of Rock Creek, which we crossed back to the trail. Since we still had most of the day left we hiked back to camp, tore down, and moved to a flat, open area near some mining relics in the vicinity of our descent to the creek. We'd try to reverse and do "P 1" then "P 2" the following day from our new spot much closer.

20504_28
If you find this old mining relic just off the trail it's a good place to camp.
20504_29
Wonderful solitude in the Weminuche.
20504_30
"P2" and "P 1". Yes, there's an easy but steep hike through the mess of cliffs and slabs here.


Day 4 Statistics

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H., Garrett M.
Camp: Rock Lake
Total distance: 8.6 miles¹ (peaks) + 2.64 miles² (camp move) = 11.24 miles³
Total elevation gain: 3,675 feet¹ (peaks) + 150 feet² (camp move) = 3,825 feet³
Total time: 6:24:00¹ (peaks) + 1:19:12² (camp move) = 7:43:12³
Peaks: Three ranked thirteeners

  • Peters Peak, 13,122'
  • Point 13,222 A
  • "P 3", 13,300'

Splits: no splits for the first five days, as all data on my watch was corrupted. Summary data is courtesy of Whiley.

¹These numbers are accurate based on Whiley's track.
²For our camp move no track was created or kept, so these numbers may not be accurate. I simply took our day 1 approach track, chopped off everything from Hunchback Pass to our "P 1"/"P 2" camp location, which left everything from that spot to our Rock Lake campsite, and then reversed it. I used two miles per hour as our moving speed for our camp move. That's where these numbers and the GPX track for that segment came from, so they are not intended to be totally accurate, just give a general idea.
³Ditto for these combined stats.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020: Day 5 - "P 1", "P 2", and Sunlight Creek Approach

We woke up early today and had a couple of goals in mind: finish the Peters group of peaks, obviously, and then move camp from Rock Creek to Sunlight Creek. We were on the trail around 6am, returning to the basin below "P 1" and "P 2" via our same descent route from the day before. Our ascent up the junky slope to the saddle below "P 1" went quickly as well, since this time we were prepared for the dinner plated rock.

20504_31
This is more like the San Juan rock I know! Total crap!
20504_32
Loose and frustrating, but with great rewards.

I ran out to the northernmost ridge bump, only because it was visible from the Vallecito Creek Trail days earlier, and dubbed it "P 0".

20504_33
"P 0" sure deserves that 0.
20504_34
Me on "P 0" with the gentler northern Weminuche behind.

I returned to the saddle and we got to work. The initial ridge was loose dinner plates but it quickly gave way to the solid quartzite we were expecting.

20504_35
Gimme dat sweet, sweet quartzite.

The scrambling on "P 1"'s north ridge might just be the best scrambling on the entire traverse. Not the hardest, nor most exposed, just super sustained at Class 2+ to Class 3, on bombproof rock, and an absolute joy to move on.

20504_36
Great rock, greater scrambling.
20504_37
Totally endless rock!
20504_38
Everyone: "What did you do this weekend?"
Me: "I climbed on another planet."
Everyone: blinks
20504_39
More slabs than we have numbers for.

I probably annoyed the hell out of both Garrett and Whiley by remarking 100 times how amazing the scrambling was, and I meant it every time. Almost all of the scrambling was done in the ridge crest or to the west, on great, sharp blocks that cascaded all the way down into the trees. People who don't do "P 1" because it's unranked are missing out on some of the finest scrambling in Colorado. For my money I don't know if I've done a better scramble than "P 1". It's intense, beautiful, sustained, and absolutely sublime.

20504_40
Scramble literally anywhere. Photo: Garrett M.

The summit of "P 1" came without warning, merely the most prominent bump on "P 2"'s north ridge more than a peak of its own. We began towards "P 2" by down climbing the steep southern side of the point.

20504_41
I'm visible in the shadows just up and left of center.

Shortly after the down climb came a Class 3 slab. The remaining climb to "P 2" was more like the climb up "P 1", though looser and almost entirely below the ridge crest to the west.

20504_42
Whiley and I on the first slab, with "P 1" in the background. Photo: Garrett M.
20504_43
Gimme dat slab, aww yeah! Photo: Garrett M.
20504_44
Typical terrain along the ridge.

The ridge narrowed as it approached the summit of "P 2", and the crux of the traverse, a massive Class 4 slab, peeked out from behind "P 2"'s shoulder.

20504_45
Summit of "P 2"
20504_46
Final walk to "P 2"'s summit. Photo: Garrett M.
20504_47
"P 3" and the upper part of the slab.

The ridge direct from the summit to the bottom of the slab wasn't possible as it narrowed into a blunted knife edge, twisted back onto itself, and then dropped sheer to the saddle.

20504_48
Complex ridge to the saddle. Mount Oso is the big one in the near background.

Instead we dropped to the right down a steep, ledgy gully that wrapped around to the saddle. There was some loose rock on the ledges so we had to be careful not to knock it onto each other.

20504_49
Steep but not hard, a mix of Class 2+ and Class 3.

As we got to the bottom of the slab we stared up at it in awe. It shot into the sky, bearing serrated teeth, challenging us to climb up it.

20504_50
At the very bottom of the slab. Photo: Garrett M.

Garrett went first, followed by Whiley. The rock on the slab was bombproof but smooth and the teeth provided convenient spots to stop and rest or scope the next jagged tooth. The slab is enormous, much bigger than photos could show, and it took each of us a few minutes to zig-zag our way up it.

20504_51
Garrett and Whiley are visible near the top tooth and bottom tooth, which gives some idea of the size of this thing.

The first third to the big, flat tooth was a Class 3 dihedral and then came the 15 foot Class 4 section. This was full on friction slab climbing on the face, with generally good hands along the edge. I was glad to be climbing up this, not down it like we would have had we completed the traverse the day before, since the exposure was enormous. A fall here would be a short slide down and off the bottom of the slab and into the big air of the basin below. At the top of the Class 4 friction slab a ledge provided a place to collect one's wits, and the remaining climb was Class 3 on wonderful, bomber quartzite.

20504_52
Whiley just coming up the dihedral. Photo: Garrett M.
20504_53
Different methods... Photo: Garrett M.
20504_54
... for the same spot. Photo: Garrett M.
20504_55
Topping out.

All in all it took each of us four or five minutes of heart-pounding excitement to get up the slab, where "P 3" and our remaining route back to the "P 2"/"P 3" saddle came into view.

20504_56
There's more slab to be had, if you want to go get scared out of your mind.

From the top of the slab it was merely a crappy, loose Class 2 talus hike to the saddle, which we were familiar with from yesterday. We walked down into the basin and glissaded off the rock glacier.

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Gross choss to end an otherwise spectacular day. Photo: Garrett M.
20504_58
Glissading > walking. Photo: Garrett M.

We took our same path back down to camp, where I was sad the fun for the day was over. We packed up camp and began the long trek towards Sunlight Creek, first to Vallecito Creek, then two miles down stream from there with a long, ice cold ford of the latter, and then a long, poorly trailed, bushwhacky hike up Sunlight.

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Looking east up towards "P 1" and "P 2" from the Vallecito Creek Trail.

The trail up Sunlight Creek has allegedly gotten better but it's still a hefty and rough hike full of downed trees, willow tunnels, creek crossings, and more. The lower part of the trail is easy to follow and it eventually does the typical fade in, fade out thing as one gets higher.

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Hardly a trail at all!

Aside from the peaks in the area Sunlight Creek would make a good side trip just for the views, which even down low are full of granitic wonder.

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Garrett went ahead and Whiley and I lagged behind. The trail had a major split up two distinct drainages; Whiley and I weren't sure which way Garrett had gone but we went up the right branch, which followed high above the creek then got lost in a willow tunnel maze. Whiley and I got lost with it. Numerous tunnels simply dead ended at rushing creek crossings, and while we could see a potential way higher around a massive cube of granite, no trail was apparent.

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The granite cube. The trail, which wasn't visible from below, switchbacks up the left side of it.

With evening approaching Whiley and I didn't want to push our luck, so we returned a little ways down the trail (the one we knew about) to a major and obvious creek crossing and setup camp there. Garrett arrived a couple of hours later, having found the correct way up, but by now night was falling. We'd continue higher in the morning, but it was time to tuck in after our fifth big day in a row. The Greylock Mountain group awaited for our next and sixth day!


Notes on the Peters Traverse

If I were to do the Peters Traverse again I would do it in today's order, starting with "P 1" and finishing on Peters Peak, all from a lower camp. The advantages of doing it this way are many. If doing the traverse from a low camp before moving up to Rock Lake for the other peaks it would help split up the brutal backpack in, get arguably the hardest peaks of the group done first, and would only require climbing up the Class 4 crux slab instead of down climbing it (or climbing it in both directions if skipping "P 1" and doing an out and back to "P 2" - don't do that, "P 1" is by far the best peak of the five). The climbing on "P 3" would be identical and instead of climbing up the Class 3 on Point 13,222 A it would be a down climb, which would be a better trade off for only going up the "P 2" slab. Going down Peters would be about the same amount of difficulty and tedium as the dinner plates off "P 1"'s north ridge. Even if starting with "P 1" from a high camp, and hiking down the trail before ascending back to the upper basin, you'd still only have to climb up the Class 4 slab and you'd be 30 minutes from camp after climbing Peters, instead of an hour or two.


Day 5 Statistics*

Climbers: Ben Feinstein (myself), Whiley H., Garrett M.
Trailhead: Rock Creek, ~11,100 feet (start), Sunlight Creek, ~10,900 feet (end)
Total distance: 5.15 miles
Total elevation gain: 2,660 feet
Total time: 4:35:00
Peaks: One ranked thirteener, one unranked thirteener

  • "P 2", 13,302'
  • "P 1", 13,205' (unranked)

Splits: no splits for the first five days, as all data on my watch was corrupted. Summary data is courtesy of Whiley.

*Day 5 statistics do not include the backpack from Rock Creek to Sunlight Creek, which was corrupted on my watch and not tracked by Whiley or Garrett. I have deliberately not added stats or a mockup GPX track for this segment, because it would be very inaccurate and thus inappropriate for real-world use. From our lower camp in Rock Creek I estimate that it was between 5.5 and 6 miles and 1,250 and 1,750 feet of elevation gain to our middle camp by Sunlight Creek. Average pace would be slow here since the terrain was rough and confusing and our packs were still heavy.


My GPS Tracks on Google Maps (made from a .GPX file upload):




Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63


Comments or Questions
PaulVee

Slabtastic!!
12/16/2020 11:37
Wow!! That area and the P-traverse looks insanely cool!! Y'all got some serious nerve truckin' up that slab up P3!! (Agree though that I'd rather go up it than down!!) Looks really scary but fun too!! Thanks for posting!!


Tornadoman

Intimidating
12/16/2020 16:16
That slab does look pretty intense! My heart sped up just looking at the pictures. Awesome!


supranihilest

Slabarific
12/18/2020 14:55
The slab (I suppose I should capitalize it as the Slab) was one of the highlights of the trip. It doesn't get much better than that, and it'd probably be a fairly good warmup for an eventual climb of Wham Ridge (which, to be fair, is many times larger, but it's the same rock and highly exposed at least). Super fun scrambling on this one!



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